Thursday, March 28, 2013

Google Maps Engine Lite - Create Advanced Custom Google Maps

For years Google Maps had the option for creating custom placemarks and basic shapes in the "my maps" option in your account. But if you want to further customize your maps you really had to do that work in Google Earth. Yesterday, Google introduced Maps Engine Lite which bridges the gap between creating basic custom maps in Google Maps and creating custom layers in Google Earth.

Maps Engine Lite allows you to go beyond manually adding placemarks to your Google Maps by uploading a spreadsheet of locations that will be displayed on your map. You can import up to three spreadsheets per map. You can also draw custom lines and shapes on your maps. Like any other Google Map you can invite others to collaborate with you. You can share your map by embedding it into a website. Google Earth Outreach offers a detailed tutorial on how to use the new Maps Engine Lite. I'm looking forward to going through the tutorial and creating some new maps this weekend.

Applications for Education
Maps Engine Lite could be a great tool to use to introduce students to using GIS to interpret data and make decisions based on that data. Here's one way that I might use Maps Engine Lite with students in my area. I could create data sets about ice thickness on a set of area ponds, create a data set about average weekly high temperatures in those areas, import that data into the map and ask students to make predictions as to when the ponds will be ice-free.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Short Guide to Mobile Blogging Apps for Students and Teachers

One of the blogging activities that I often suggest in my workshops is having students record and share on-the-spot observations during field trips. To do this your students should have a mobile blogging application on their iOS and Android devices. If your students don't have iOS or Android devices, but they have some other mobile devices that has a web browser or email client they can post via email to Blogger. Here's a short run-down of mobile blogging options on the blog platforms that I usually recommend to teachers.

Blogger: Google offers mobile apps for Android and for iOS. The apps can be found here http://www.google.com/mobile/blogger/ You can also post to Blogger via email if you have enabled that feature in your Blogger settings. You can find directions for activating post via email here http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2013/02/how-to-post-to-blogger-via-email.html With post via email activated you and your students can blog through any email app that you have installed on your phone or tablet.

WordPress: If you are using either WordPress.com or a self-hosted WordPress blog you can post to it through the free iOS app https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wordpress/id335703880?mt=8 or through the free Android app https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.wordpress.android&hl=en learn more about the Android app in the video below.


EduBlogs: You can find the Edublogs iOS app here https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/edublogs/id526466328?mt=8 The Edublogs Android app is available here https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.edublogs.android

Kidblog: Kidblog doesn’t currently offer their own Android or iOS apps, but you can enable mobile publishing and use the WordPress iOS and Android apps to publish to your Kidblog. You can find directions for enabling mobile publishing on Kidblog here http://support.kidblog.org/entries/21682463-Publishing-via-the-iOS-WordPress-App-for-iPad-iPod-Touch-and-iPhone

Three Mobile Blogging Activities for Students
1. One-take and or quick-cut videos. Have your students interview each other in front of a landmark to talk about what they're learning on a field trip. The YouTube apps for iOS and Android are made for that type of activity.

If your students have been taking a lot pictures on a field trip, have them organize a short audio slideshow video through the Animoto Android or iOS apps.

2. Podcasts and audio notes. Have your students use Audioboo or Sound Cloud (both are available for iOS and Android) to create simple audio recordings in which they describe what they're seeing on a field trip. They can also use the apps to record informal interviews with folks like museum tour guides or park rangers.

3. Enhance pictures. Your students can use ThingLink (iOS or web browser) or PicCollage (available for iOS and Android) to add some information to pictures that they take on field trips. In the case of ThingLink they can add interactive elements to their pictures. Those elements can include links, notes, video clips, MP3 recordings, and other images. In the case of PicCollage students can put together a simple collage of field trip highlights.

What Is Beyond Textbooks?

For the next two days I’ll be at Discovery Education’s Beyond the Textbook forum. The purpose of the forum is to bring together a couple of dozen educators to discuss the next generation of textbooks or whatever is beyond textbooks. The forum is set to begin in just a few minutes from now. These are my thoughts heading into the forum. I’ll update these notes over the next couple of days.

When I hear “beyond textbooks” this is what I think of:

  • Using augmented reality applications to enhance images and diagrams and make them interactive. 
  • Embedding video and audio into digital textbooks. Granted, this can be done in webpages. 
  • Building interactive, choose-own-adventure pages into digital textbooks. Including checks for understanding that provide students with immediate feedback before moving on to a new section of the textbook. 
  • Providing a base digital textbook that teachers can quickly and easily customize the content of those textbooks to match their curricula.
What do you think of when you hear "beyond textbooks?"

Full disclosure: Discovery is paying my expenses for the trip and I am speaking at a Discovery Education event in Vermont this summer. 

Quizdini - Create Online Quizzes That Give Students Instant Feedback

Quizdini is a free tool for creating online quizzes. The best feature of Quizdini is that you can create explanations of the correct answer for your students to view immediately after trying each question in your quiz. Your explanation can include text and or links to online resources like videos and images. Quizdini quizzes can be created in a traditional linear format or in a matching format that asks students to pair answers to terms.

Learn how to create a Quizdini quiz by watching the video below.


Applications for Education
Quizdini could be an excellent tool for creating review activities for your students. Your students don't have register in order to try the practice quizzes that you share with them.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

ThingLink Remix - Share One Image and Let Your Whole Class Make It Interactive

ThingLink is my favorite tool for making images interactive. I've written about it many times in the past including this post that has 26 ways to use ThingLink in the classroom. Today, ThingLink added a new option called ThingLink Remix. Remix is an optional service that allows you let other people use the images that you upload. You retain ownership of the original image and your original image isn't changed, but others can use your uploaded image to create their own interactive images.

Here's how Remix works. I can upload a picture and activate the Remix option for it. Then when you find my image you can click the "Remix" button to add the image to your account and start adding interactive pinmarks to it.

If you've never used ThingLink before, check out my short video about it below.


Applications for Education
In the post announcing the new Remix feature ThingLink suggests the following that a teacher compose a set of questions on a ThingLink image of a garden with various plants. Student can then click the Remix button, and answer the questions on his or her own version of the image.